MERLIN “The Darkest Day Part 1” Review

MERLIN “The Darkest Hour, Part 1” Series 4 Episode 1 – It’s been a year in Merlin time and Uther is an invalid, still reeling over Morgana’s betrayal, Arthur is effectively running Camelot with all of the compassion Uther lacked, and Morgana has resurfaced with some dastardly schemes up her billowing sleeves.

There are two types of Merlin episodes: there are the joke types, filled with flatulent grannies and goblins and toads. Then there are the more serious, sombre types, filled with angst and betrayal and life and death stakes. No prizes for guessing which types of episodes are my favourites.

Thankfully, this episode falls flat and square into the latter category. I was sort of surprised by the severity of the content, but then the light hearted banter between Merlin and Arthur which usually alleviates the darker elements, at least for a time, were few and far between and, outside of the final heart to heart, they weren’t as well written as they usually are.

But me, I’m more into this for the drama elements. The comedy can come and go, but the drama is why I stay, to see how much further into darkness these characters can descend while still being a show mainly targeted at children.

By nature of her character’s arc from good to evil, Morgana has always been a fascinating character and this episode starts us off on a pretty good foot with her as she promptly sacrifices her sister Morgause (farewell, Emilia Fox, you will be missed). This opens up a veil between the living and the dead at a time when the veil is thinnest (midnight on Samhain). This allows Morgana to let loose a fair few ghost things which turn people to ice and cause wreckage and ruin and eventually leads Arthur to assemble his (chiselled, muscled an very well groomed) knights to vanquish the evil.

By nature of his character arc, Merlin has always been one of the less interesting characters despite being at the centre of all the drama. If you think of where he’s gone from the beginning to where he is now, he hasn’t changed much: he’s still righteous and good and honest, a little bit mischievous, but very much Arthur’s subordinate, very much Morgana’s nemesis, very much pure as he always was. Oh sure, there have been trials and tribulations aplenty-there was that whole poisoning Morgana attempt which could have been awesome but was instead justified as a means to get rid of Morgana who had become so evil she could not be saved. Instead of using this plot to explore the depths to which Merlin would go to keep his magic secret (when he could have told Morgana and saved her from feeling like a total outcast) and the depths to which he’d got to protect Camelot (when it meant killing someone he’d once regarded as a dear friend) it just became one more push to turn Morgana evil.

This episode does explore Merlin’s character from an interesting angle: his fear of the ghosts manifested itself in very interesting ways. There was one moment in the episode where he proved too scared to pick up a candle and instead Arthur had to lift it up for him. It was a nice moment in a show where it can often feel like only the bad guys and peasants get scared, and it distinguished between different types of bravery.

This is part one of two episodes and as we leave Arthur and his knights, Merlin has thrown himself in the path of a creepy ghost, Arthur has given Agravaine, his uncle and Morgana’s ally, stewardship of Camelot in his absence, and Morgana is chilling in a mossy hut. It was a good episode to get us back into the realm of Camelot.

If there’s anything I’d like to see this season it’s:

A human side to Morgana. I’d even settle for a “humanish” side to her.
A substantive plot for Gwen.
The knights developed into fully fledged characters (right now I can only pin them down as The One With The Biceps, The One With The Hair, The One With The Really Nice Jaw.)
More shades to Merlin.
More of what we got in this episode.

Anything you’d like to see more of? What did you think of this episode? Sound off in the comments below.

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